The Daily Gamecock

Journalism students make trip to Charlotte for convention

Students work for local, national media outlets Read More


While nearly 6,000 political delegates took hold of Charlotte, N.C., a smaller delegation of a different kind represented USC at the Democratic National Convention this week.

USC’s senior Capstone Experience program sent 19 journalism students to Charlotte, who teamed with professionals from six national and local news organizations to report on the convention.

In a crash-course internship at one of the biggest events of the presidential election season, the students reported, shot and edited video; managed social media; and ran errands alongside some 15,000 other media members from around the nation and world.

Sid Bedingfield, a journalism professor, and Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, began planning the project at the start of this year, tapping into their industry contacts to arrange positions for the students.

The proximity and timing of the convention presented “too good an opportunity to not take advantage of it,” Bierbauer said.

The students were assigned to work with teams from CNN, the Associated Press, the National Journal, the Charlotte Observer, Raycom’s Charlotte and Columbia broadcast stations and Time Warner Cable’s News 14 Carolina.

Adia Hamer, a fourth-year broadcast journalism student, called her experience working with AP “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Hamer was tasked with gathering research, assisting with videography, conducting interviews and running errands from the convention floor to the AP office.

Her most challenging assignment, she said, was tracking down a Google professional somewhere in the city by asking around and going on a hunch, then rushing to set up and conduct an interview.

“It literally took 3 1/2 hours to get a 3 1/2 minute interview,” Hamer said.

In the process, students began navigating the media’s changing landscape. For some, that meant taking to social media.

Paulia Hughes, a fourth-year broadcast journalism student, tweeted updates for CNN’s Headline News Network, whose producers consulted her on other ways to reach out to younger audience members, she said.

Working at an event with the scale and prominence of the convention has its professional benefits, too.

“(It) gives you insight and becomes something of an audition,” Bierbauer said. “It’s a chance to test out what you’ve learned in the classroom and ... helps you focus your ambitions.”

That’s a sentiment students echoed as well, as many said they felt prepared to apply what they had been taught.

“Everything our professors have taught us ... is happening right here,” Hughes said. “This is seeing everything in action.”

While working at the convention has its professional advantages, it has civic benefits as well.

“I’m really just enjoying seeing a lot of South Carolina representatives show up,” Hamer said, adding that she has an interest in reporting on politics and local news. “We’re with some of the most powerful ... politicians in the country, right here in Charlotte.”

And, Bierbauer added, working at the convention carries a certain civic significance for the students.

“It’s important because it’s part of the larger picture of civic and political engagement,” Bierbauer said. “Far too many voters who go to the polls are only semi-informed ... It’s easy to be disdainful of the political process. If you start to grasp how that unfolds and penetrates ... it makes you a better citizen.”

But being immersed in the process has meant a lot of work, too, and while Hamer had a demanding schedule and challenging tasks, she said the convention experience has affirmed her confidence in her skills and her professional future.

“It wasn’t an option to not make [an assignment] happen. Failure is not an option — not for AP, not for the Democratic National Convention, no way. Challenge accepted,” Hamer said. “I can do this. I can work and drive and make a living ... doing things I’m actually passionate about and going to school for.”